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Before The Deluge: The Jews Of Turkey (Part Two)

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Due to the secular character of the new educational system, religious instruction was not allowed in public schools. Organized resistance by minorities was suppressed by the government and religious centers were closed. Jewish social relief organizations and Jewish schools found themselves in an unbearable financial position.

Of the 8,000 school-age-obligated [Jewish] children in Istanbul in 1929, 6,000 attended school, about 3,500 at Jewish schools, and 2,500 at Christian mission schools. Foreigners were not permitted to teach at the Jewish schools.

The new republic promised Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood [the motto of the French Revolution] to all the citizens of the state, without distinction as to religion or ethnicity. However, the government demanded that minorities renounce the rights guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Lausanne, and the Jews complied. Family names were Turkified. Hebrew prayer books appeared with Roman letters. [When Turkey became a republic after WWI, the Arabic alphabet was dropped in favor of the Roman, or Latin, alphabet we use and which Turkey still uses to this day.]

After the separation of religion and state, the higher rabbinate, which had played such a large role in the history of Jews in Turkey, was stripped of its official character.

The Turkey of today [1935] is no place for immigrants. The Law for the Promotion of Industry appears to mean that all enterprises, which may work to provide benefit to the state – which is to say, practically all enterprises, period – may employ only Turkish citizens. Foreigners who came to Turkey recently with the hope of finding opportunity were bitterly disappointed.

“The general economic situation,” reported an emigrant, “simply defies any description. We warn all Jewish immigrants thinking of going to Turkey…we are all totally and spiritually sick and broken-down. I think I’m losing my mind.”

On the other hand, a number of Jewish professors and high school managers from Germany were given employment at the reorganized University of Istanbul. A few engineers and merchants have managed to fill certain niches, but it’s only a handful.

Ezra James Nollet is a retired U.S. government chemist living in Poland where he is officer of the local synagogue in Legnica. Before the Deluge appears the last week of each month.

About the Author: Ezra James Nollet is a retired U.S. government chemist living in Poland where he is officer of the local synagogue in Legnica. Before the Deluge appears the last week of each month.


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The Joint Distribution Committee cared for the refugees, directed the care of children, renewed educational facilities, undertook the rebuilding of destroyed houses, etc. Through the year 1930 the Joint Committee distributed over $80 million to the different branches of its relief work, and even distributed aid via affiliated charities to Jewish agricultural settlements in the USSR.

book-Die-Juden-in-der-Velt

The Federation of Jewish Labor by the end of the 1920s consisted of some 125,000 members, of whom 60 percent were employed in the confections industry. After 1929 there was a further rise in the level of Jewish participation in workers’ unions. There were 134,020 Jewish members of the fifty largest trade unions, 34.1 percent of the total number of organized workers, which roughly reflected the level of the Jews in the population of greater New York. In the remaining centers of the garment industry, in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Rochester, almost all the owners were Jews and the workers they employed were mainly Jewish.

The outward orderliness of the new circumstances of life was not without inner quakings of a spiritual crisis. Mixed marriages were extremely frequent in the southern and western states, where Jews were sprinkled in among the Christian populations. They came to about a third of the marriages Jews entered. But after 1881 the picture changed, with the flood of Jewish immigrants into New York. From 1908-1912, only 1.17 percent of marriages involving Jews were mixed.

The (European) press began to busy itself with the problems of emigration. The Austrian Central Body of Jews, which arose in 1848, dedicated itself to this situation. In May of 1848 a Committee for the Promotion of Emigration was started.

On August 22 1654, the Sephardic Jew Jacob Bar-Simson landed in New Amsterdam. It appears he came from Holland. In the beginning of September of the same year, twenty-three Jews set sail for New Amsterdam, refugees from Pernambuco [Translator’s Note: Dutch South America). The ship Saint Charles, which functioned as the Jewish equivalent of the Mayflower for the first Jewish immigration to North America, brought them to the city today known as New York.

Before the beginning of the Common Era, Jews were known to have lived in Sparta, Sikyon, Delphi, Athens, Patras, Mantineja, Laconia, Corinth, Thessalalonika, Philippi, and Beroa. Due to baptism forced on Jews by some Byzantine emperors, a number of Jews emigrated o southern Italy. Otherwise, there was a line of Jewish communities in the 12th century. By itself Thebes housed 2,000 families, Salonika 500 families, and middle-sized settlements arose in Halmyros, Corinth, Drama, Krisa, Naupactos, Ravnica, Arta, and Lamia.

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The present kingdom of Persia, which recently officially took the name “Iran,” encompasses a region of over 1,640,000 square kilometers with about 15 million inhabitants. The most important cities are the capital Tehran as well Tabris, Mesched, and Isfahan (the former capital).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/features-on-jewish-world/before-the-deluge-the-jews-of-turkey-part-two/2012/06/27/

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